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Album of the Year #23: Dreamville - Revenge Of The Dreamers III
2020.02.22 15:28 Baskin5000 Album of the Year #23: Dreamville - Revenge Of The Dreamers III
DREAMVILLE - REVENGE OF THE DREAMERS III
Background by Baskin5000
To preface, the background will be more focused on the label, and less about J. Cole.
Back in 2007, Fayetteville, North Carolina rapper J Cole and his manager Ibrahim Hamad decided to start a record label known as Dreamville Records. The first artist signed to the label was rapper Omen, from Chicago, who had met Cole after sharing music with each other via online forums. Both artists would go on to release mixtapes through the label for the first few years, notable ones including Friday Night Lights, and Afraid of Heights.
In early 2014, Cole announced while performing at Madison Square Garden, that Dreamville now has a distribution deal with Interscope Records, and handed out flyers to attendees announcing that a mixtape called Revenge of the Dreamers has been released. That same day rapper Bas from Queens was signed to Dreamville and featured on the mixtape with Cole and Omen.
In June of 2014, Cozz from Los Angeles was signed. In December of 2015, R&B singer Ari Lennox from D.C. was signed, rapper Lute from Charlotte was signed, and Revenge of the Dreamers II was released, featuring all the current label artists, and a few outside features.
In 2017, Dreamville signed East Atlanta (not Santa) rapper JID, and Atlanta duo EarthGang, comprising of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot. JID and EarthGang would grow to be Dreamville’s biggest artists, sin J. Cole.
On January 6 of 2019, Dreamville announced Revenge of the Dreamers III, but this wasn’t announcing the release date. This was announcing the beginning of what would be a 10 day recording session in Atlanta, extending invites to over 100 artists and producers to come and work on the album with them.
Singles including Middle Child and Down Bad were released, while Popup shops, brunches, private concerts, and even comics took were used to help promote the album.
On July 2 of 2019, REVENGE, the documentary was released on YouTube, documenting the 10 day process, and featuring snippets from many of the songs featured on the album. 3 days later, Revenge of the Dreamers III was released.
Review by Baskin5000
I will first be doing a track by track analysis, with an overall review and summary at the end.
Under The Sun (J. Cole and Lute feat. DaBaby)
The album opens up with a needle drop and a soul sample of “I’ll Be Waiting For You” by The Argo Singers. The sample then tapestops leading into a chopped up instrumental of the song and some booming 808s, with J. Cole mumbling,
“I done seen it all, oh my god” before entering his verse with much more confidence.
“Nothing new under the sun, nobody fucking with son” Thematically, the song is your typical braggadocio rap, but the confidence of Cole and the upcoming artists over the smooth soul sample gives the song much more prominence.
Coles verse leads directly into the hook, which to many listeners shock is a surprise feature from Kendrick Lamar. He says two simple lines that follow the braggadocios theme, and then it’s on to the next verse.
“I woke up for some money Lute from Dreamville raps the next verse, coming in with even more energy than Cole. He also raps about shooters, girls, and the now iconic line:
Ayy, lil’ bitch, Too many opps in here tell me who you with.”
“Wish a nigga would like Liam Neeson” Kendrick’s two-line hook is displayed again, and rapper DaBaby takes the last verse, and is the first of many non-Dreamville artists to officially feature on the album. Bragging ‘bout bagging girls back in college, guns, and even a reference to his self-defense shooting at a Walmart, he ends his verse shouting out his hometown Charlotte, which may be why Cole chose DaBaby for the opening track, as they share the same home state.
The theme of under the sun can mean everything the rappers have experienced in their lives. The “sun” motif is also played with multiple meanings, as Cole and Lute refer to themselves as sons, while Cole himself has a son, and talks of Sunday dinners.
Fun fact: The last time Kendrick and Cole’s voices were both on a song was on “American Dream” by Jeezy in 2017 but part of separate acts, and before that was “Forbidden Fruit” by Cole in 2013. Under the sun may be a great tease for fans of the duo, but to those thinking this might mean the long awaited collab album is coming, don’t get your hopes up.
The hungry lyrics, laid over the smoothness of the sample elevate the song to a memorable album opener.
Down Bad (Bas, EarthGang, J. Cole, JID feat. Young Nudy)
Down Bad was one of the lead singles of ROTD3, and is a posse cut of Dreamville rappers, and features East-Atlanta trapper Young Nudy. Nudy, JID, and EarthGang are all from Atlanta which may be why Nudy made the final cut of the song.
Nevertheless, Nudy breaks the song, as the opening sample gets filtered and reversed, bringing special attention to his verse. He delivers his signature flow, laid back yet still filled with energy, but his verse is cut off to tap in fellow East Atlanta rapper JID. One of Dreamville’s standout artists known for his fast doublet tip-tap cadence, he doesn’t cease to impress with strong lyrics and clever wordplay.
JID’s verse leads into the hook, mentioning how he had a hard knock life, but had to harden up if he wants to be the best at the rap game. The Dreamville torch then gets passed to Bas, whose verse compares Dreamville to track and field athlete Marion Jones, who cheated in the Olympics to gain an upper hand. He uses this comparison to say how it’s unfair how Dreamville is racing past the competition, while everyone else is slow like a heroin high.
Another hook and it leads to the head of Dreamville, J. Cole. Following the theme of being down bad, he raps about humble beginnings, and how hard work and pressure got him to where he is now, all while having kept a consistent yet complex rhyme scheme in the first half of his verse.
EarthGang member Johnny Venus delivers the final verse. Doctur Dot isn’t on the song, and there will be many times on the album that will credit EarthGang but only include one of the members. Even though he doesn’t talk about being down bad, he makes up for it in his energy and flow. Shout-out Even Stevens.
Overall, the song is a great banger and a good choice as one of the promotional singles. The instrumental is a fusion of rock and trap, with a heavy electric guitar and hard hitting trap drums. It also feels nostalgic giving early 2000’s (Toxic is the first song coming to mind) vibes with the high pitched instrument ringing throughout the track. Every artist gives an amazing performance with high energy.
LamboTruck (Cozz feat. REASON and Childish Major)
The anthem of the underappreciated. This song trades verses between Cozz of camp Dreamville, and REASON of Top Dawg Entertainment. The hook on this song is done by Childish Major, a renowned artist known for producing the tracks U.O.E.N.O (remixed by TDE) and 4 Your Eyez Only by Cole of Dreamville, which is fitting given the topic of discussion. Being the underdogs of their respective labels, the artists have an issue with being overshadowed by the more popular members, who have more favor for releases, features, pay, marketing, etc. etc.
Cozz begins talking about his lack of pay from the label, and how his “dreams” at Dreamville aren’t able to be fleshed out due to lack of funds and attention. Cozz wonders if REASON is having more luck at TDE, since everyone there has gotten special attention to their album releases, from Schoolboy’s recent album to Isaiah Rashad (Ironic). He’s hungry to be making more music, but it’s not in his favor. He’s been so frustrated he’s even considering popping a glock. This could either mean suicide, or more likely used to threaten the label to give him more attention. He brushes it off because that would be stupid to do, but still thinks he might blow a fuse if something doesn’t change soon.
REASON sings a different tune, talking about his lavish life as a rapper, getting money, getting girls and keeping up his image as a hardened West Coast rapper-wait, that’s a lie. He reveals to Cozz that he’s actually been broke for quite some time, the bills keep stacking up, and he can’t handle lying about his situation. Being surrounded by much more rich and famous artists at the Dreamville recording sessions got to him, and seeing J. Cole pull up to the studio in a Lamborghini truck was the straw that broke the camel’s back. REASON wants him and Cozz to rob Cole.
The third verse is a back and forth between REASON and Cozz, with Cozz pleading not to mug Cole, as he’s like a brother to him, and crossing your own brother is taboo. REASON isn’t listening since he isn’t that close to Cole, so it’s not much of a loss if Cole dies in the process. The argument reaches a climax when REASON makes an offer: He goes and robs Cole, while Cozz robs Top Dawg, the head of REASON’s label. Cozz agrees.
The outro by REASON summarizes the song, nice guys finish last, and if you want to get what you deserve, you have to take it for yourself.
This song is one of my personal favorites on the album, since the topic is one rarely heard in rap. Usually artists rep their collective as their family, and upon getting signed, the artist will always be taken care of. In hip hop it’s common to talk about how you used to be broke, but working hard has got you in a much better financial situation. It’s refreshing but also sad hearing how in the case of Cozz and REASON, they’re still broke even after getting signed to some of the most desired and prestigious rap collectives.
The back and forth arguing at the end of the song feels much more intense as their voices are panned to the left and right and the beat breaks, making the listener feel dead center of the altercation.
I’ll be keeping this track short since hammer_it_out is doing an AOTY review for Mirrorland and will most likely have a better analysis for this track (I will link once his review is out)
The track focuses on caution and paranoia (Always keep your head on a swivel) and the gangs talk about the dangers of living in Atlanta. Dot salutes a fallen friend Alan, whose cause of death remains ambiguous but can be inferred through the lyric,
“RIP my nigga Alan, damn, I wish you would’ve stayed at home”. Venus’ verse tells a small story of his youth, not involved much in gang violence which he was thankful for, but still had a rough upbringing as both his parents were overworked for little pay. Things changed for the worse though when Ronald Reagan introduced the War on Drugs, which I’ll try to keep short. Instead of helping communities stay safe from the addictive nature of drugs (which he may or may not have deliberately introduced into lower income communities), the administration used the War as an excuse to target and jail minorities.
Now Venus is ironically surrounded by police brutality and death in what was once a safe neighborhood, and thinks solemnly that being dead would weigh less on him than needing to mourn for everyone else that has lost their lives.
After 3 faster and more aggressive tracks, Swivel serves as a nice break to ground the listener, and help lead into the next track with a similar vibe. The beat teeters between smooth/calm, and eerie/unnerving, helping instill the feelings of paranoia that the song is focused on.
Oh Wow…Swerve (J.Cole feat. Zoink Gang, KEY!, and Maxo Kream)
Zoink Gang is the newly formed collective of JID, Smino, Buddy, and Guapdad4000, having been created during the Dreamville recording sessions. Buddy even announced the group has enough songs for a tape. Although this is the only track on the album officially featuring Zoink Gang, many tracks on the album will feature 2 or more members of the group.
Oh Wow…Swerve is the combination of two tracks.
Oh Wow opens with a dreamy, slow instrumental as Zoink Gang can be heard conversing in the background, and then coming together to chant the hook. Layered vocals of the members sing in the background leading into Coles verse, an introspective verse about how people are truly happy is when they enter the afterlife. Some purposefully corny bars about Radioactive (he’s becoming self aware), and the verse ends with an alarm clock, telling the listener to stay woke even though it may feel better to be asleep. Zoink gang chants the hook again, and Oh Wow ends.
Swerve begins with an incredibly catchy hook from Atlanta’s KEY! talking about his car, the theme of Swerve. A slow but bouncy trap beat from Bizniss Boy is the instrumental for the song.
A car skrts in the background and the song shifts focus to H-town Maxo Kream, a standout verse showcasing his clever comparisons of pop culture to gang life. Some of my favorite lines of the album are from his verse. The following verse is by JID, but is cut off short, the listener only hearing about 4 or so lines. This could be payback for cutting off Nudy’s verse early back in Down Bad.
Oh Wow…Swerve is a nice double track, and although there is no real connection between the two parts of the song, it was probably combined as a way to transition back to banger territory from the solemnness of Oh Wow and Swivel. Swerve also doesn’t feature any Dreamville members bar the 4 bars from JID, so this could’ve been an excuse to get the track onto the album since Oh Wow does contain Dreamville members.
Don’t Hit Me Right Now (Bas, Cozz, Ari Lennox, feat. Yung Baby Tate, Guapdad4000 and Buddy)
Don’t Hit Me Right Now is a track packed full of different artists. The artists are tired of girls hitting up their phone, and are busy with other things, which is the theme of the song. The beat is bouncy and is fleshed out by Ari Lenox’s singing as she provides background vocals for the track.
Oakland’s Guapdad4000 sings an incredibly catchy hook (it won’t be his last on the tape) and the remaining artists deliver quick 8 bars. Bas takes the first verse, and his last line actually begins the first bar of Atlanta’s Yung Baby Tate’s verse. With less rapping and more singing, her verse is also outstandingly catchy.
The hook is displayed again and Compton’s Buddy begins the following verse. Buddy arguably benefitted the most from the recording sessions in this album, being lucky enough to voice in 6 separate tracks on the album (a whopping 9 if we include the director’s cut), the most from any non-dreamville artist. He even beats some of Dreamville’s own artists in volume. Cozz finishes the last verse and the hook plays again, ending the song.
Overall, Don’t Hit Me Right Now is a nice party track, and is a fun song to listen to.
Well Fargo Interlude (JID, EarthGang featuring Guapdad4000 and Buddy)
However, the debatably most fun track on the album is an interlude. It begins with a skit from the credited artists imitating posh British accents, while preparing to rob a bank with bazookas, flamethrowers, machine guns, and muffins. The hook is the 4 artists chanting about how they’re about to rob the Wells Fargo. The beat is loud and rambunctious, and features some unique instruments imitating party horns to make the track extra playful. While the vocals and beat are in sync, the composition of either the hook or the beat (can’t tell which) is done so in a way to make it song sound off kilter, almost like the artists are coming in early/late and need to catch up to the beat. This is done on purpose as Johnny Venus is heard saying at the end:
“It’s just how you count it, it just depends on how you count it” The verses are super quick, switching from one artist to the next before you even have time to realize they started rapping. The quickest song on the album, Wells Fargo makes a case of being one of the most HYPE songs of 2019. The energy in it is insane. Examples include the chanting of the chorus, the group finishing every bar for Johhny Venus, and Buddy cutting into the hook screaming:
“YOU GETTING THIS? YOU RECORDING THIS? ARE YOU GETTING THIS!? AAAAAAAAA” If you haven’t watched the REVENGE documentary on youtube, I’d recommend scrubbing through until you find the clip of them recording this song. Seeing all these different people from across the country, having probably not even met each other prior to the recording sessions, have so much fun making a track captures the essence of what ROTD3 is about, getting people together to make great music.
Sleep Deprived (Lute, Omen, feat. Mez and DaVionne)
This track is another focused on overcoming hardships to reach success, so much so that the artists are sleep deprived from overworking. They also reminisce about past dreams and conquered goals.
Raleigh’s Mez and DaVionne (hometown not specified) are featured on this track. The beat is filled with natural drums that surround the room, with a crash symbol that slides between the left and right connecting the kick and snare. A funky bass riff plays in the background, and dreamy piano keys capture the reminiscing topics of discussion.
Lute begins talking about how thankful he is to be in his position to a girl he just met. To put it simply, even though saying Rap saved him is cliché, it’s true. He can live comfortably now, and watches as those who didn’t ride for him now want to be on his side. Lute manages to always bring hunger and energy in his verses, and the same goes for this one.
Mez picks up the next verse, talking about his dreams, and mentions that he used to want to sign to Cole in the early days of Dreamville. He reflects on the hard times and trauma he had to go through, and now it keeps him up at night, yet tells someone (his fans or his girl) not to stay up late worrying about him.
DaVionne delivers an amazing Chorus, catchy but meaningful, and Omen, one of the OG members of Dreamville, gives his first verse of the record. He talks about a failed relationship and trying to rid himself of her, yet still finds himself staying up late thinking about her.
Every artist on this track shined, and played the different aspects of why someone could be sleep deprived. Lute is sleep deprived from stress. Mez doesn’t want his fans or his girl losing sleep over him. DaVionne is carving her own path in life while haters are losing sleep from trying to figure her out, and Omen is up late thinking about a lost love.
Despite the topic of discussion, the vibe of the song is a mix between bounce and relaxation, and serves as another great bridge on the album as it delves into deeper, more meaningful cuts.
Fun Fact: Mez actually did have a back and forth with Cole on MySpace back when J. Cole went by “The Therapist”. This was probably around the same time Omen was chatting with Cole and would eventually go on to create Dreamville.
Self Love (Ari Lennox, Bas, feat. Baby Rose)
This song is for the self-conscious. The soulful Ari Lennox and Atlanta’s Baby Rose sing about struggling to fit in, and how it’s unhealthy to invest too much of yourself into someone else, when instead you should be loving yourself.
The chorus is short but impactful, “Self-love is the best love”. Ari Lennox croons her verse and her turn at the chorus, filling the air with vibrancy and emotion. Baby Rose sings the following verse and chorus with much more soul. You can feel the pain in her voice, and her performance is remarkable.
Both singers mention a failed relationship amidst their self-conscious thoughts, and Bas comes in to play the other side of relationship, saying how he led his girl astray and feels shame for making her feel the way she feels. He realizes this relationship isn’t healthy and a break is needed, because “Self-love is the best love”.
Another personal favorite of mine, it’s good to know you’re not alone when you feel down and out of place. Baby Rose killed her feature, and has an outstanding voice.
Ladies, Ladies, Ladies (JID feat. T.I.)
Based on “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Jay-Z, JID talks about his experience in past relationships with a little help from T.I. The beat uses a chopped up/reversed vocal sample and is slow and dreamy.
JID reminisces, from girls who tried to rob him, girls far more wealthy than him, girls’ brothers trying to shoot him, andeven girls who tried to say the N-word around him even though they aren’t black.
Some clever word play is used in his verse, such as:
“She be panty-less (penniless), so no panty lines…she fucked me, tryna pluck a couple bucks like a banjo…” JID is almost always rapping with a faster flow, so it was a nice change of pace to see him rap so smoothly over a slower track.
ATL’s T.I. is the guest of the track, talking about his past relationship with a girl named Loraine, and how karma from “loving” a woman too hard is bound to come back to you, so you can get that same lovin’.
I feel like it has to be mentioned given the recent T.I. controversy, but it is pretty hypocritical about rapping about past relationships, and how fucking a girl really well will come back to you as good karma, while at the same time giving your daughter regular hymen checks to make sure she isn’t having sex. Nevertheless, T.I’s verse fit the song well, and did well as a guest feature.
Costa Rica (Bas, JID feat. Mez, Buddy, Jace, Reese LAFLARE, Ski Mask the Slump God, Smokepurpp, and Guapdad4000)
Another posse cut on the album but one highlighting the features much more than the Dreamville artists. CuBeatz makes the melody on this beat, with their signature of complex, catchy instruments. Pyrex Whippa known for his bouncy drums doesn’t disappoint, adding the percussion on this cut.
This posse cut is aimed for flexing, each artist giving their own unique sauce for their verses. Reese from Atlanta begins with a standard trap verse, talking of fendi pants, slatt, and plenty of girls. The verse gets passed to Bas, who uses a clever simile telling his jeweler to make a piece out of his heart since it’s so icy cold.
Guapdad4000 shows his amazing hook skills once over, yelling how he’s got plenty of fans and plenty of bands in the popular tourist country of Costa Rica.
Jace’s verse is filled with pop culture references, from Norman Bates to Rihanna, and Raleigh NC’s Mez delivers a fast rhyme scheme in the latter half of his verse. Guapdad sings the hook again and the drums cut out for South Florida’s Smokepurpp, who’s funny lines paired with a laid-back tone make them even more humorous, examples include:
“Forty-five on me, shit hot like a pocket (doo-doo)” JID is back to his fast cadence, bouncing off the walls from topic to topic, and ending his verse somewhat humorous saying that at the airport before flying to Costa Rica, a girl mistook him for Swae Lee.
“Got your baby mama doing drugs in the moshpit”
After the third hook, Buddy is back on the album track, also with a humorous verse, and even comparing himself to Ernest Hemingway because he’s been writing so much, which is why he’s on so many songs.
Ski Mask, also from South Florida, holds the final verse. A long awaited one at that after a snippet surfaced of him in the studio during the Dreamville recordings, with almost a dozen artists all chanting his bars and going absolutely crazy. He also uses his signature style of fast flows and humorous references. I might be biased being from South FL but it’s nice seeing so many rappers fuck with him, and even having him and Purpp be invited amongst the other artists during the ‘Ville sessions.
1993 (J.Cole, JID, Cozz, EARTHGANG feat. Buddy and Smino)
“Every album gotta have a weed song.” `-Danny Brown.
Much like many rap albums, a dedicated song to the wonderful flower that is bud is needed, but this one has more of a twist. The artists are having a smoke sesh trying to relax after a day of recording during the Dreamville sessions. If you’ve ever seshed with friends, you know that there’s always going to be the one friend who’s high enough to think he can freestyle some bars and impress the group. Usually while attempting to freestyle, the blunt stays burning in their hand, and it’ll be ages before it finally gets passed.
Take that scenario, but everyone in the group is a famous rapper. Buddy is not having it, and tries to stop everyone attempting to spit so that they can just chill and enjoy the sesh. Every rapper talks about their experiences with the drug, only to be abruptly cut off by Buddy who just wants the damn blunt to be passed. The highlight of the song is the skit at the end, just hearing all the rappers just laughing while Buddy is trying to quiet the room down, and points out:
“This nigga J. Cole, he done grew some dreads, he think he smoke now” It’s definitely one of the funniest lines on the album and it’s not even part of the song, it’s a skit.
I really enjoyed this song because like Wells Fargo, it’s not meant to be taken too seriously, but as a song/skit combo it does well enough to be funny without crossing the line of corny.
Rembrandt…Run It Back (J. Cole, JID feat. Vince Staples)
Rembrandt…Run It Back is another 2 part song, and Rembrandt opens up with a vocal pitched JID giving warning to anyone who might try to mess with him or Dreamville.
JID and Cole both have verses on Rembrandt, talking about how their group is better than others in the game. A boastful song, both verses also feature 2 word couplets, using a limited vocabulary to help paint the picture (like artist Rembrandt van Rijn) showing their superiority.
The hook is displayed again with gunshots ending Rembrandt, as Run It Back starts to play. Long Beach CA’s own Vince Staple’s voice can be heard trying to get someone’s attention. He’s confused and wonders if this is the Dreamville recording session he’s been hearing about.
He then begins his albeit short verse with energy, boasting of his guns, clothing, cars, and fearlessness in the face of violence. He ends the verse warning someone not to get killed by the police, before his verse is cut off by fully automatic gun.
Both 2-part songs on this album seem to have the second song only populated by non-Dreamville artists. As I mentioned earlier this is probably why they’re attached to the first song which does feature Dreamville, as a way to still have it listed on the album.
Sunset (J. Cole feat. Young Nudy)
Pyrex provides another bouncy trap beat, this time with help from ChaseTheMoney. Originally called God Flinch, this track was rumored to include a Drake feature due to a photo online of Drakes name attached to a first draft of credits for the song, and a photo of him riding in J. Cole’s RR around L.A. J Cole mentions riding the Rolls Royce in L.A, and includes the bar, “2-6 god” which could also be interpreted as “To 6-god”, but to many fans dismay, the track does not include Drake.
J. Cole’s hook plays a cliché on the “Roses are red…” poem, saying roses are red while his diamonds are blue. His pockets are green from being filled with money all the time. He mentions how he wants to get a house in LA, and later explains why in his verse due to how he almost got killed in his hometown being mis-recognized in a drive-by.
Young Nudy is back again (with a full verse this time) and uses his laid back flow to contrast his trap/drill filled lyrics. Thematically, the song isn’t very significant, however it’s still catchy to listen to if you need a banger.
Got Me (Ari Lennox, Omen feat. Ty Dolla $ign and Dreezy)
Ari Lennox and L.A’s Ty $ tag team in this R&B deep cut, singing of their loyalty to their lover, as long as their lover is just as loyal. Much like every album needing a weed song, if there’s an R&B track and Ty $ is featured it’s bound to be a vibe. Ari sings the following verse after Ty, talking about how just much more special she is as a lover than the other fish in the sea. Omen and Chicago’s Dreezy finish the cut with rap verses, but still fit the theme of the song as they discuss how grateful they are for their partner, and their partner for them.
Like I said, the song is a vibe, plain and simple. The beat is very trapsoul, and allows the singers to shine. The rappers’ verses give support in order to make a catchy, quality, R&B track on this album. After what was about 5 trap-inspired songs previously, this is a nice change of pace yet again, showcasing the album’s diversity.
Middle Child (J. Cole)
A solo track by J. Cole, Middle Child was released under his name in January of 2019. Originally believed to be a single for what would be his next album, it was actually the first of many singles to be released promoting Revenge of the Dreamers III. A full brass section opens the song, serving as the basis of the song’s instrumental. Cole opens with a refrain, talking about his enemies and how he’s coming to get them.
His first verse discusses how he isn’t into hard drugs, but may babysit some drinks and smoke ‘sum. He talks of wanting to support his friends and peers who aren’t in as lucky a position as Cole. A common theme of his is again expressed of him giving thanks to the rap idols of the past for giving him a source of inspiration.
His refrain repeats and transitions into the hook, a chant of boasting, and telling other rappers that no amount of money or street cred will make you real.
The second verse fits more into the theme of Middle Child. Cole feels like the middle child, bridging the gap of the older, more lyrical generation of rappers, and the new wave of trap-heavy beats carrying the songs of rappers with more minimalistic lyrics. He mentions talking with 21 Savage and Kodak Black, using them as a means to spark a discussion about how too many minorities are jailed. The lack of proper guidance due to generational trauma is leading to mass incarceration and infighting, which Cole hopes to fix. The chorus plays again, a quick outro and the song ends.
Overall the song accomplishes its purpose. Just like merging the two wings of rap, it’s conscious and delivers its message prominently, while still being modern/poppy enough to be played at functions. Even though Cole says he doesn’t drink much, he talks about needing a very strong drink, “something he can feel” in the chorus. This could either mean hard liquor or lean. It’s argued whether he’s talking in first person perspective, or in the perspective of a typical new age rapper, but it’s still cleverly used as a way to keep the hook catchy. It’s modern enough to have playability at parties, (similar to Swimming Pools, albeit not as powerful imo) which is very smart from a marketing standpoint, making it a hit.
Fun Fact: J. Cole is not actually a middle child.
PTSD (Omen feat. Mereba, Deante’ Hitchcock, and St. Beauty)
The penultimate track, PTSD is one of the most slept on songs of the album due to the lack of star-studded guests.
What sound to be chopped vocals and a melancholic piano open up the song, with natural/rhythmic drums keeping the time. The theme of the song is just like the title-PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder usually develops in people who have witnessed a traumatic event, with its effects being triggered reactions within those affected regarding the event. The artists on this track talk about traumatic events in their lives and how it has affected them.
Mereba from Alabama begins by speaking to an unnamed figure. This figure is no longer with her, with clues hinting to death by being shot. Now Mereba reflects and understands that this is the reason why she has trouble sleeping at night, and needs to sleep with a gun in order to feel safe.
Deante’ has the next verse, very deeply and emotionally talking about his regrets through life. He’s carrying the thoughts of those close to him on his shoulders, not because they died, but because they failed to live out their dreams and are doing so vicariously in him. His fortune and fame is causing him guilt and shame.
Omen has the closing verse of the song, and his trauma revolves around his sister. On a Tuesday he saw her walking with her kids, which normally is no issue, only it was at midnight. It finally dawned on Omen that rumors he’s heard of his sister being homeless are true, and that she was living on the streets. He was so in shock that he left her on the street before they could talk. The trauma is that he hadn’t seen her for years prior to that encounter, and hasn’t seen her since. Omen prays that he can get closure and the chance to talk to her before one of them dies.
St. Beauty sings a refrain, and Buddy closes out the song with a more uplifting outro, chanting with many of those in the studio with him about how this (being the song or the album) is for the homies…and the hoes.
Sacrifices (J. Cole, EARTHGANG feat. Smino and Saba)
An album later and here we are. Is it really a closing track if it doesn’t have Smino and Saba? No need to worry about that here, as Chi-towns Saba and St. Louis’ Smino both have verses on this song.
A guitar can be heard picking in the background, and a fast drum break leads into the beat of the song. Johnny Venus is the only EARTHGANG member on the song, but his two verses make up for Dot’s absence. His signature voice croons as he talks about a near death experience. The hook is short but meaningful.
“I make sacrifices, bloody sacrifices. Cutthroat... rabbit’s toe... I suppose... maybe that’s what life is” His second verse gets more enthusiastic. Olu’s voice pans between the left and right ear as he yells two words at a time, only to slow back down again for his hook. St. Louis’ own Smino raps the next verse, a smooth feature showcasing his unique style of wordplay and flow. Smino always shines on closing tracks, and this is another example for that. The same goes for Saba, who goes next. His rhyme scheme is consistent, and near the end of his verse it really shows off.
J. Cole has the last verse, and it’s honestly one of the best verses I’ve heard from him, period. He wrote more meaningful lyrics about how he loves his wife in a single verse than Chance did on an entire album. He also mentions cleverly how he went from Huey Freeman to Ed Wuncler from the Boondocks to describe how he went from being as conscious as he was pre-fame, to now a rich, disconnected man. It’s one of his most memorable verses, and the singing at the end really sells it. The way the beat rides at the end serves as a great album closer.
Revenge of the Dreamers III accomplished what a lot of other collaborative/label albums fail to achieve, being a critically good album. It has structure, flow, and consistency throughout. Much like critically good solo albums, there are high points and low points, a diverse mix of bangers and deep cuts, and track placement is perfect. The album is divided into small sections that help separate the tracks by feel, but short enough so the vibe doesn’t get stale.
One of the main reasons this album is as good as it is, is because of the features. ROTD3 broke new ground, and inviting so many artists to help work on the album sparked waves of creativity that we will continue to see. Many songs from the Dreamville sessions may not see the light of day, but non-Dreamville artists will eventually have a track or two that was recorded at the time. The relationships formed such as ZoinkGang, Cozz and REASON, etc may also not have happened, and we may get more collaborative music in the future from them.
The last time an event on this scale occurred was probably during the recording of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. While Kanye helped craft his album with the help of his legendary connections like Jay-Z, Rza, etc. Cole went a different route, and focused on the new school. He even minimized having more noticeable features, having only 2: Kendrick as an uncredited feature and a single verse from T.I.
Doing so gave the new school a chance to show their hunger, and maybe even served as a competition; since so many artists were at the studio, only the best of the best could get featured on the album. Standout performances from people like REASON, Buddy, and Guapdad4000 may introduce them to new audiences, who may never have given them a chance beforehand.
Even though this is a feature stacked album, it’s a Dreamville tape at heart. Dreamville didn’t disappoint. Every member came through, and reminded listeners why it was called Revenge of the Dreamers in the first place. Dreamville has done a lot better than other labels at showcasing their in-house talent, and gives each artist multiple spots on the album to exemplify their prowess (I’m looking at you, TDE and Cactus Jack). It was also a nice change of pace for J. Cole, his verses were much less serious than his solo work, and you can tell he really had fun when making the album.
I really hope this album inspires more rap collectives/labels to make their own collab tapes. I also hope this makes it more acceptable for said collab tapes to accept help from outside artists. Revenge of the Dreamers 3 is a standout album in 2019, and definitely earned its Grammy nomination.
FAVORITE LYRICS by baskin5000
“Potato over my gun” Lute – Under the Sun
“Pistol grips get to squeezing, wish a nigga would like Liam Neeson”
“Let a nigga cover Fader ‘fore I have to fade a nigga at the Fader Fort” JID – Down Bad
“Maxo talk a lot of shit but is he really ‘bout that life? Maxo Kream – Oh Wow…Swerve
Is a pig’s pussy pork and can a caterpillar fly?
Go Go Gadget, toting ratchets, beam attachment on the side”
“Had so many adventure times, we used to run from the jakes Mez – Sleep Deprived
To make it for Southside, we do whatever it takes
It was apartheid when my barber parted my fade
‘Cause now I’m pulled left and right by Keshia and Adrinae”
“I got the Mike Jack’ nose, just before the vitiligo, Jace, Mez, Buddy, and Ski Mask the Slump God – Costa Rica
Norman Bates with the eights, I’ma go psycho,
Laundromat with a temper, this a vicious cycle,
Feel like Rihanna, bitches go wherever I go”
“Niggas got me tight like Arthur’s fist and shit”
“I started sucking on her titty, put my thumb in her ass
She had a little one, it really wasn’t nothing to grab, I did it anyway.”
“I’m feelin’ like Goku, bitch, I need your energy, uh, um, okay, huh. Going on a date with an AK”
“I push pack like USPS, you is a bitch” Smino – 1993
“See a nigga in all red from the North with the pole, it ain’t Santa Claus Smino – Sacrifices
Brought my gifts to Atlanta, I’m Atlanta Claus
I can smell you pussy with the panties off”
“It’s astigmatism, you got poor sight, let the bitches forget it, I do it Alzheim”
“I’m a real soulful nigga, collard greens inside your speakers”
TALKING POINTS by baskin5000
• Would you like to see another collaborative album made similar to the Dreamville recording sessions? Will there be more events like this in the future?
• How does Revenge of the Dreamers III rank compared to other label albums? (ex. Beast Coast, JackBoys, TDE/Black Panther soundtrack)
• Who was your favorite Dreamville artist on the album? Your favorite non-Ville Artist?
• Has this album introduced you to any new artists? Will you be exploring more of the artists featured on this album?
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